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Advanced 3D modeling and sheet metal design help Taiwan Fylin develop and manufacture high-quality air cargo containers
Taiwan Fylin Industrial Co. Ltd. specializes in designing and manufacturing aviation-related products and precision machinery sheet metal, and provides cargo nets and maintenance services near Taoyuan International Airport.
Taiwan Fylin Industrial Co. Ltd. (TFI) was founded in the 1970s and started designing and manufacturing machinery enclosure hoods, primarily used for manufacturing switchboards and telecom wiring boxes. Responding to its government’s policy to promote the aviation industry, TFI participated in programs of the Industry Bureau in 1984 and for more than 30 years has enjoyed outstanding success in the aviation industry.
The key to success for TFI lies in its collaboration with the Industrial Research Institute and the development and design of a complete series of aviation unit load devices (ULDs), which are pallets or containers that enable bundling and loading of large quantities of cargo into aircraft as a single unit. Components include containers, pallets, cargo nets, and other items that can be mounted without auxiliary devices.
TFI has developed into one of the leading companies in the aviation industry and has received design approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. The company is the largest brand in Taiwan’s aviation industry, and the only Asian brand in the world’s top 10 ULD manufacturers.
The success of TFI’s products is based primarily on the company’s design capability. TFI has invested heavily in advanced design and manufacturing systems, including Solid Edge® software for 3D design from product lifecycle management (Digital Industries ) specialist Siemens Digital Industries Software. Solid Edge includes advanced capabilities for solid modeling and sheet metal design that enable the company to significantly improve its production efficiency and precision. Because TFI products largely comprise sheet metal components, the specialized sheet metal modeling and processing capabilities of Solid Edge are especially helpful in streamlining the company’s design and fabrication processes.
Liu Huakung, chairman of TFI, points out that the use of Solid Edge significantly reduces the time required for the design process. “In the past, design drawings produced with 2D software contained many confusing details,” Liu says. “With 3D software, after material cutting, we can immediately and clearly see whether components are seamlessly jointed, whether they fit without interference, and where the interference or clearance is.”
Using 2D, engineers must comprehend process sequences and be able to mentally visualize in 3D in order to correctly interpret drawing views of all sides and fronts. Unfolding of sheet metal components into flat patterns is impossible without this ability to understand multiple orthographic drawing views. In contrast, using Solid Edge, it is very easy for engineers to understand and visualize models created using 3D systems and to understand how the final product will look.
For TFI, the sheet metal design tools of Solid Edge are efficient and cost-effective. The company implemented the 3D software in a factory four years ago, using a paperless environment that makes it a benchmark for advanced and environmentally-friendly sheet metal factories in Taiwan.
“The first tough job with sheet metal processing is to interpret and flatten drawings.” says Liu. “In the early days, workers used 2D software to unfold the drawings, which required a very strong ability to visualize the design. But with Solid Edge, designers can view models very clearly and know that designs meet customer requirements. After all of the designs are completed, it is easy to flatten them with the automatic unfolding functionality. After that, it is very easy to draw them out piece by piece, significantly improving efficiency.”
Despite all the advantages of 3D, it took some time before the employees accepted and adopted the automatic unfolding capabilities of Solid Edge, which have since improved in both speed and results. “Flat patterning functions have been available in CAD systems for a long time, but the operations were inefficient and much slower than using 3D to create and flatten the drawings. Solid Edge meets our expectations both in terms of sheet metal results and processing speed. Models can now be unfolded anywhere, and streamlined sequences lead to more flexible and faster sheet metal processing.”
NST Technology, a Siemens Digital Industries Software partner in Taiwan, supports TFI in optimizing important process parameters. NST has unique knowledge of mold and die machining tools, as well as how to finetune Solid Edge to achieve the best precision in sheet metal processing.
A typical manufacturing challenge for TFI is that many large components exceed the size of stock sheet metal plates when unfolded, which in the past required designers to split the component into two pieces, then re-model and reassemble the pieces for fabrication from two sheet metal plates that were then bound together. Now it is much easier and simpler; based on the component’s processing requirements and TFI’s fabrication capabilities, engineers can use Solid Edge to easily decompose a 3D component model into two work pieces in a streamlined process that improves efficiency and precision. “This is a function we have wanted all along,” Liu says. “Customer changes can be made promptly and we can respond quickly, no matter how often customers change the details.”
TFI’s field personnel frequently recommend changes to customers, such as different dimensions or production materials to improve manufacturing. In such cases, designers and production workers can discuss the proposed changes using 3D models to view the results. The result is improved designs that are more suitable for production.
In addition, inexperienced engineers can easily learn and master 3D design techniques with Solid Edge. “In the past, sheet metal engineers needed two to three years of training to achieve 99 percent accuracy,” Liu says. “A lot of material was wasted along the way due to errors. The use of Solid Edge not only improves design and modeling accuracy, but also drastically reduces the scrap rate of materials.”
The virtual 3D models created with Solid Edge have also helped TFI achieve more accurate color matching in finished components. Using the company’s in-house painting facilities, TFI mixes paint colors based on the solid model and standard color formulas to achieve the exact same color on the external parts of a product.
TFI has improved its sheet metal fabrication operations by creating a networked paperless environment. Welding operators can read 3D models and files from the networked database, and use the synchronous modeling functions of Solid Edge to directly modify designs if necessary. This practice not only reduces paper output, but also eliminates possible errors by using accurate, up-to-date data.
TFI lists all assignments for the entire production line to the networked system in detail via the Solid Edge viewer. Production managers enter daily work assignments into the system that include drawing numbers so that operators can clearly understand upcoming job assignments and work more efficiently.
“With the support of NST Technology, we have successfully implemented Solid Edge,” says Liu. “All operations, from laser bending, welding and assembly to materials tracking, are carried out in a ‘paperless environment’ that reduces paper consumption and contributes to environmental protection.”